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Use the RPE scale to maximize your training results

Do you know what RPE is?


Rate of Perceived Exertion. It’s a number from 1 to 10. A scale that describes how hard a workout feels.


It is one way to gauge the difficulty of the physical task you’re trying to accomplish. It’s useful because it gives us a common language to talk about workouts. Without it, everyone would say things like “That was really hard” and it would mean something different for each person. Conversely, when you see a workout in your app or on a class whiteboard, a common language like RPE helps tell you what you should expect to feel on this workout.

Here’s the RPE scale for conditioning workouts:

ScaleDescription
1Very easy activity. Almost no effort required, one step above walking watching TV on your couch.
2-3Easy activity. You can maintain a full conversation with easy breathing and feel like you can keep it up for hours. Think leisurely walk around the block.
4-5Moderately easy activity. Some effort required, heart rate is slightly up and your breathing is starting to accelerate. But you can still hold a conversation. Think low intensity stationary bike while FaceTiming your friend.
6Moderately difficult activity. Your breathing is accelerating and you’re breaking a sweat. You can hold a conversation but it takes effort and you have to break it up to catch your breath. The physical task requires focus. Think 3-5 mile jog.
7Difficult activity. You can sneak a sentence here and there, but you’re generally breathing hard. Your heart rate is in the 120-150 range and you are sweating. Think Kettlebell Swing + Jump Rope + Burpees circuit for 15 mins.
8Very hard. No talking possible, your breathing is fast and your heart rate is in the 150-180 range. You can only keep this up for a few minutes.
9Extremely hard. No a word can be said, your heart rate is 185+ and you can only keep this up for 2 minutes or less.
10Maximum effort. Can only be maintained for 30 seconds or less, and requires that you give it everything you have.
RPE Scale for Conditioning

What about lifting weights? The RPE scale applies!

ScaleDescription
1Very easy. Moving your body from one room to another.
2-3Easy. Bodyweight warmup reps at slow speed.
4-5Moderately easy. Warmup weights, can do 15+ reps and have plenty left in the tank.
6Moderately difficult. Challenging yard work, lifting a weight for 10-12 reps and having 5+ reps left in the tank.
7Difficult. You can still demonstrate speed and great form in your reps . Your last 2 reps slow down but you have a 3-4 reps left in the tank when you’re done.
8Very difficult. You start to lose speed but your form is still good. You feel like you have a couple of reps left in the tank.
9Extremely difficult. Your reps are slow and you are a little afraid you might not make the last 1-2 reps. But when you finish you feel like you have 1 rep left in you.
10Max effort. Any set to failure – 1-rep max, or a 3-rep max or max reps at any load. The point is to feel like you had nothing left in you. Not a single extra rep.
RPE Scale for Strength Work

Now you can start to use this scale for your own training. Look for RPE suggestions in the workouts!

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